WE’s ‘Growing Up Hip Hop’ highlights 2nd generation hip-hop royalty Jan. 7

The cast of WE-TV's "Growing Up Hip Hop" (Top row left to right: Kristinia DeBarge, Egypt Criss, Angela Simmons. Bottom row left to right T.J. Mizell, Romeo, Boogie Dash CREDIT: Armani Martin

The cast of WE-TV’s “Growing Up Hip Hop” visiting the AJC on Monday, January 4, 2016. (Top row left to right: Kristinia DeBarge, Egypt Criss, Angela Simmons. Bottom row left to right T.J. Mizell, Romeo, Boogie Dash CREDIT: Armani Martin

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As the daughter of Joseph Simmons (better known as Rev. Run of Run DMC fame), Angela Simmons is not only familiar with hip-hop history but also reality TV, having spent six seasons on MTV’s “Run’s House” that aired from 2005 to 2009.

Blending her reality show guile and her family ties, she came up with the concept of gathering her friends who were also sons and daughters of famous hip-hop legends and create a show that ultimately became “Growing Up Hip Hop,” which debuts on WE-TV Thursday at 10 p.m. Simmons handpicked who would be on the show with her.

“I didn’t want to be on a trashy show,” Simmons said. “I can’t do that to my family name.”

The entire cast – which also features the kids of the late Jam Master Jay from Run DMC, Sandra “Pepa” Denton of Salt-n-Pepa, James DeBarge, Damon Dash and Master P – came by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday to promote the show.

Romeo, son of Master P, arrived in a super casual red sweatshirt, sweatpants and sunglasses. He is the best known of the six, having already had several hits as Lil Romeo when he was a teen. Now Master P is prepping him to take over his No Limits empire. He joined Simmons as an executive producer of the reality series and the two clearly have a rapport, as well as a past. During the first episode, he introduces his girlfriend, a blonde woman, who gets abused on social media for being white.

“This is a revolution for TV, ” he said. “Everyone in this room will make an impact in a positive way.” He said he’s building his own empire.

Simmons, besides TV production, goes to Fashion Institute of Technology studying marketing and communications and is putting together her own fashion line focused on faux fur. She chose not to follow her father’s path and go into music. She seems hard working and intense in the first episode.

T.J. Mizell, son of Jam Master Jay, appears pleasant and well adjusted.He said his strong family helped him get past the grief of his father passing 13 years ago in an unresolved murder. And he has honored his father by also going into DJing. He feels his dad would be happy to see how big DJing has become as a profession. “He was a pioneer in something that’s really big now,” he said. “I want to make sure that name is never forgotten.”

Egypt Criss it the baby of the group at age 17, just breaking into the music business under the watchful eye of her mom. She is not able to go into nightclubs the way the other five can. (Her mom in the first episode tried to get her in but failed.) “I’m an aspiring singer and songwriter and actress,” she said.

Kristinia DeBarge, while the show was taping, was grappling with her father James DeBarge in prison for drug charges. In the opening episode, she wants to see her father, who she hasn’t connected with in more than two years. But her uncle El DeBarge suggested she not go because it’s too shameful for him. She said he has since been released from prison. She herself has had a music career, releasing an album in 2009, and is working on an EP that comes out the day the show debuts. “It’s a great concept with wonderful people,” she said. “You get to see us how we’re following in our family’s footsteps.”

And Damon “Boogie” Dash is the son of Damon Dash, who helped found Roc-A-Fella Records with Jay-Z. He is an entrepreneur, who has Chipz Cookies, a record label, an art gallery and apparently, socks, because he handed me a pair after the interview. He seems much more laid back than his dad, who in the first episode said any stresses that Simmons has is small fry compared to what he and many of his brethren had to deal with as kids in poverty trying to make a name for themselves in a new industry.

“There is a lot of truth in that statement. They have to suffer so we didn’t have to,” Kristinia said.

“When you’re a parent,” Romeo added, “you want to make your life a lot better than your parents.”

None of the cast members have deep Atlanta ties but Romeo has shot several movies and TV shows locally and said he used to date somebody from here.

Here’s the trailer:

TV PREVIEW

“Growing Up Hip Hop,” debuting Thursday, January 7 at 10 p.m., WE-TV


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